One of the most intriguing storylines that has perhaps flown under the radar following the Kansas City Chiefs' 2016 season was the play of rookie defensive lineman Chris Jones, who at just 22 years old, was thrust into more playing time than many probably expected this early in his career.
With key injuries to veteran defensive linemen and starters Allen Bailey and Jaye Howard before the season was even halfway through, the time had come for Jones to step up for the Chiefs' defense, and that's exactly what he did.
At 6 feet 5 and 310 pounds with an affinity for getting after opposing quarterbacks, Jones quickly established himself as a fan favorite, not only for what he was able to do on the field, but also for an infectious personality and playful demeanor not normally befitting a man of his size.
The combination of those two things quickly made Jones one of the most popular players on the Chiefs' defense.
Here are three reasons Jones is quickly becoming a fan favorite in Kansas City:
- The guy was fantastic last year
Let's begin with the fact that in 11 starts and with the second-most snaps played (571) among defensive linemen on the Chiefs, Jones finished his rookie season with 28 tackles, two sacks and four passes defensed.
Even more than that, Jones added 42 quarterback pressures on 368 pass rushing snaps, which gave him a PFF "pass rushing productivity" score of 9.4, which was the best of any 3-4 defensive end in the entire league.
It's not really a surprise for the folks at PFF to be high on Jones considering they wrote about him being a "steal of the draft" before the Chiefs even selected him, and when they did take him with the No. 37 overall pick in the second round of the draft last April out of Mississippi State, they scored it an A-plus.
"We have all this data and all this information and we're still figuring out what it all means," Steve Palazzolo, a senior analyst at PFF, recently explained. "I think we've had a lot of success highlighting interior defensive linemen, edge rushers and offensive linemen that are at the extreme ranges of our system.
"The guys that grade extremely well in college generally translate to the NFL, and Chris Jones is one of those guys. When you add up those two years of grades that we had of him, he was outstanding and it's been good to see him transition smoothly."
Overall, Jones ranked as the 13th-best interior defensive linemen in the NFL last year, according to PFF.
"He's going to be a star player, that kid is going to be dynamic," CBS Sports' Pete Prisco recently added of Jones.
- The guy has fun
In addition to being a disruptive force in the trenches and one of five Chiefs defensive starters in the playoffs who were 24 years old or younger, Jones also possesses a laidback, infectious personality that immediately attracts fans to him.
He's always smiling and making those around him laugh, but the passion he has for the game is also displayed when he's on the field. It's not uncommon during commercial breaks for Jones to be dancing on the field and trying to get the crowd going before a big third-down play.
During the season, Jones also jokingly lobbied for snaps at quarterback, said he'd play in his pajamas if it got too cold and generally had the media laughing every time he spoke.
- The guy loves Kansas City
In a sit-down interview with Chiefs reporter Pete Sweeney last fall, Jones gave another 10 reasons why he's becoming a fan favorite in this community.